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2005 10 10
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Like many North American cities, much of the urban development of Montréal in the 19th century followed the grid pattern. Long narrow blocks of duplexes and triplexes were built, serviced by alleys, as an easy and fast housing solution. They also followed old rural roads and extended the streets at the river’s edge northwards. Navigating cities like Montréal becomes a straightforward affair, and we constantly call upon street intersections for orientation during our daily travels. But what of those mysterious streets that amble off the chart? That twist and turn to a tune of their own devising? Gilford is such a street.

Gilford is a familiar enough sounding street. The English name alone distinguishes it from the Bordeaux, the Cartiers and Brébeufs - those regions of the motherland or intrepid explorers of yore whose path it intersects. Its length is surprisingly short, so that while travelling north on parallel streets, Gilford is not always to be found. There is a vague recollection of its plateau location east of Saint-Denis. But where is Gilford?

Throwing a wrench into the otherwise orderly grid pattern of the plateau, Gilford dog-legs its way through the neighbourhood. It begins simply enough, a parallel line between Mont-Royal and Saint-Joseph which crosses Papineau and other major north-south axes. So pleasant, this green and leafy alternative to Mont-Royal, we think; let us continue west toward Saint-Laurent.

At Mentana, the street appears to end, forcing a left or right turn. But we’re clever enough, and not so square, to see that Gilford continues slightly to the north. The minor deviance is forgiven and the route reprises its orderly manner toward Laurier métro.

Here again, the way is thrown for a loop, or in this case, a curving sidewalk, which bisects the street and blocks passage through to Saint-Denis. The métro will shoulder the blame for this strangely suburban traffic island, allowing buses to terminate and reprise their daily journeys. Gilford, we note with wary eye, is set at an angle here, plotting an equidistant course between x and y, but only for the short distance from the metro to Saint-Denis. Ha! A mere variation on the grid; we are perfectly at ease.

But the trickster has not abandoned its ways, as Saint-Denis is where Gilford truly rises to its mischievous glory. Veering off at a diagonal and curving round to meet Drolet, Gilford is off to the races, giving us unexpected sightlines in multiple directions. The familiar plus-sign pattern of intersecting streets in a grid is replaced by a skewed star, and any vestiges of bodily alignment with the cardinal points are abandoned. Misaligned street signs don’t make matters any clearer. Gilford suddenly seems to complete both prongs of a hairpin and spring back toward Saint-Denis. Or is that Saint-Denis over there?

And then it ends. Abruptly, Gilford tosses you on to Henri-Julien, its natural termination a parking lot.

Wide-eyed and disoriented, we are treated to something new: the shadow of a painted advertisement, a farmhouse from centuries past. Delinquent Gilford will lead you astray, causing you to ponder and reconsider your steps… a happy moment’s respite from the routine, efficient, and straightforward displacement from A to B.
[email this story] Posted by Alexandra McIntosh on 10/10 at 02:19 PM
  1. ça déchire sa race cet article ! c’est d’la balle ! x

    Posted by xa le d√©chirificateur  on  12/03  at  02:50 AM

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